Last night I attended Cascadia Project’s White Night program at Studio 1398 on Granville Island. The project’s aim is to explore and showcase the works of playwrights who live and work on the West Coast. It’s broken down into 3 nights - Green, White and Blue - each featuring two new short plays. The three programs will be rotating until Sunday October 7th and you can check https://www.thecascadiaproject.com/ for details.
The First show in the White Night program is called, Wayne Gretzky Never Takes it Black. It was a story about three friends who want to save a local bilingual coffee shop when the owner decides to sell it. At the heart of the play was a story of preservation - of a coffee shop, a language, and most of all - a loved ones memory. The characters were charming and the playwright, Issie Patterson, made satisfying use of the F word and witty social commentary on hipsters and current events. Even though we never see her, I found the most compelling part of this play to be the tape recordings we hear from the shop’s whimsical founder, Sophie, who recently passed away. She’s the kind of person you want to spend time with, and the actors and script brought her to life really well. I honestly feel like I met her. The writing was funny and entertaining. The presentation wasn’t as tight as the second play, some actors dropped lines, but the White Night did a great job of pairing an emerging playwrights work with a more experienced playwright.
Andrey Summers wrote and directed the second play of the program called The Hanging Judge. Wow. What a privilege to have seen this. My husband isn’t much of a theatre buff, but we both ate this one up. I just have to read the synopsis as it’s written because it’s gold: “In a midnight cemetery outside Napoleonic London, two trolls hold a mock trial to decide the fate of a Chinese expatriate, presided over by the hanged corpse of a racist judge. It’s a comedy.”
And it was hilariously dark. What metric do we use for judgement, and how can we keep it unbiased? Perhaps by making the hungrier troll the one arguing for the man’s release, and the civilized troll for his consumption. Turns out “He’s got a family” isn’t convincing enough. The line that brought it together for me was "we’ve all got mums, and mums will love anyone". Woven into the debate about what makes someone worthy of life, we find two trolls acting more humane than the grossly flawed men who both take a journey that ends in them asking “what have I done?”. The show was outrageously funny with great costumes and performances, a simple well utilized set, amazing physical characterizations, and delightful little flashbacks that fleshed out each of the characters. It’s a show I will be thinking about for a long time, and one I would absolutely see again.
~ reviewed by Chantal M. Marie
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